Music Festivals: Why Your Representatives Should Get On Board

JACOB A. EPSTEIN — When a music festival is held in your city, it is like being injected with a potent vaccine.   The injection may initially be painful and the vaccine’s short-term effects may be unpleasant.  However, in the long run, your city will likely emerge healthier: with an influx of capital, an enhanced economy, and a new population of tourists looking to return in the future.  Local governments and politicians should recognize the overall benefits of such events and embrace them, whether through cooperation with concert promoters and their sponsors or through city ordinances that facilitate concert production.

Here in Miami, for an entire weekend each year, I am consistently aggravated to learn that cabs are unwilling to leave the downtown area.  Instead, Miami’s taxi services concentrate their efforts on the Ultra Music Festival, driving around teenagers, college students, and other young adults dressed in bright colored tank tops.  Although many other Miami residents share some of my frustrations and have many of their own, Ultra’s economic benefits to the city are undeniable.

According to a Washington Economics Group report, detailed in this 2012 Miami Herald article, the Ultra music festival pours approximately $79 million into the Miami-Dade economy each year.  That report also showed that Ultra supports approximately 915 jobs, as the event’s organizers spend about $11.5 million annually on operational costs. Prior to the 2013 Ultra Festival, this CBS article estimated that City of Miami would take in about $1.2 million just to cover the costs of police officers, paramedics, and the rental of Bayfront Park.  About sixty percent (60%) of the festival’s attendees are from outside Miami-Dade, significantly impacting local hotels, shops, and other sources of revenue.

It is no secret that a fundamental shift in the music industry has occurred over the last decade, as revenues from album sales have decreased and revenues from concerts and music festivals have increased.    According to, worldwide revenue from recorded music dropped from $36 billion in 2006 to $34.7 billion in 2011.   However, also shows that worldwide revenue from live music and concerts increased from $16.6 billion in 2006 to a staggering $23.5 billion in 2011.  Recorded music revenue does little to benefit anyone other than the artist and those entities involved in the music’s distribution, while revenue from music festivals directly affects entire communities.

There is money to be made.  It is obvious that Miami has more regular tourists than most cities around the country, but the Ultra-Miami model can be looked to as an example for how a city can give itself an economic boost. The potential for smaller cities and for the nation is enormous; and there are many alternative genres of music, other than electronic, hungry for venues.  A careful selection of the right genre and the right concert promoter could simultaneously satisfy the concerns of local residents and the needs of a struggling city’s local economy.

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